2016 Mercedes GLC

PHOENIX — For 2016, Mercedes-Benz introduces the GLC crossover utility vehicle, a completely new vehicle replacing the discontinued GLK. While the GLK nomenclature meant nothing, the GLC is akin to the C-Class sedan and coupe. In fact the vehicles share the same rear-drive foundation and are powered by the same engine.

We recently spent time behind the wheel of the new GLC and can confirm that it definitely out-performs and outshines the outgoing GLK in just about every respect. The GLC is bigger, more comfortable, and more efficient, drives better and feels more solid and well constructed. We also thought it better looking, both inside and out.

Unlike the GLK, which used a six-cylinder engine, the GLC is powered by an inline 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers 241 horsepower and is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Better yet, Mercedes says it’s 20 percent more fuel-efficient then the old six-cylinder. All-wheel drive 4MATIC is optional.

As for its appearance, the GLC has the more modern aesthetic we’ve seen in other recent introductions by Mercedes-Benz. It’s smooth-skinned, improving coefficient drag, making it more aerodynamically efficient, thus improving fuel economy. And of course there’s the new, larger grille to satiate the luxury audience’s measurable preference for big grilles.

Inside, the GLC’s cabin design, equipment and materials are a virtual clone of the C-Class, which caters to one’s love of material richness, evocations of tradition and electronic ornament. This is aesthetic perfection at its finest. 

Almost all of the driver-assistance systems found on other Mercedes-Benz vehicles will be available as standard or optional. This includes the Intelligent Drive system with collision prevention and crosswind stabilization standard.

The GLC also gets a keyless start system, touchpad control for climate and entertainment, a rearview camera, power tailgate and power driver seats. Inside, a seven-inch color screen and media interface for phones and iPods are standard.

The GLC will initially launch with the GLC 300 and GLC 300 4MATIC. Other trim levels will follow, including a plug-in hybrid, diesel, and the sportier GLC 450 AMG, but not a full blown high-performance version.

Overall, the GLC clearly adds more room, refinement and gee whiz technology. The drive is buttery smooth, wind noise virtually non-existent, tire noise and vibration barely palpable. Perhaps with a few more turns behind the wheel, I could pronounce the new GLC the best compact crossover utility vehicle in the world. For now, I can say for sure, it’s certainly good enough. Checkbooks, run for your lives.

Base price is around $40,000 and a well-equipped model will go out the door north of $55,000.

— Jim Prueter